Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Art of Running Sideways

Karen Holik performs the threadle at :30.

At summer camp, one of my favorite lessons was threadles. Which came as a surprise to me, because ordinarily, threadles are not one of my favorite agility maneuvers. Serpentines, yes. Threadles, no.

It just always seemed so "against the flow" and so apt to be met with a "wouldn't this be better as a serp?" face from Taylor, and an "I hate broccoli" face from Samurai.

Even at camp, I stumbled and bumbled through my whole first session of them with Karen Holik. But thank goodness, she got to the root of the problem, and scheduled an evening of movement training (or in my case, remedial movement) the next evening.

We learned to run a little better, and more importantly learned to run sideways. Turns out it's an essential skill in performing an efficient threadle.

You can see Karen herself performing the movement in the video above. Occurs at the :30 mark.

From this demonstration, I would guess that she has actually polished the mechanics of this move since when this video was taken at a World Team Tryouts event in 2009.

When performed as directed, her method gives a very clear indication of the handler's intention a stride or maybe two before the dog even commits to the first jump of the threadle. It also literally sidesteps the need to do any counter-motioning with the arms, which could tend to be ineffective, unclear and unnecessarily costly to speed and confidence.

I've been practicing these with Samurai since camp, and after the first few bumbling attempts, we seem to be getting it into our repertoire.

I guess the best thing that it shows is that the difference between considering something "fun" in agility and having something you dislike about it is often about having a clear way of doing it.

Once that's been settled, it's clear sailing (or at least that one part). And that's where the fun begins.

You can learn more about Karen and her superstar Sheltie, Sizzle, at

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